Q & A: What Supplements Do You Recommend Adding To A Raw Diet??

Wanted to share with our blog subscribers a fun conversation I had this week with one of our Facebook fans, Sergi Rodriguez‎. I thought this may be interesting to to others that may have the same question:
Q: “What supplements do you recommend adding to a raw diet. I know this may vary with age and specific issues related to different dogs but as a general rule what might you consider necessary? Thank you!”   – Sergi Rodriguez posted on the San Francisco Raw Feeders (SFRAW) Facebook page

A: Hi Sergi — Thank you for your excellent question! We are big advocates of providing all the nutrients your dog/cat needs through fresh, whole foods as much as possible.

When you feed a variety of foods: predominantly lots of fresh heart/muscle meat, different cuts of different animals/bone-in with consumable bone; rotating between 3-4 different proteins, a variety of offal (5% liver + others, including green tripe – which should be fed up to no more than 30% of the diet) – this is a good start. These animal derived foods should always be the foundation/cornerstone of an ideal diet for dogs & cats.

However, I do find it beneficial and best/a big improvement to also include small amounts of the following:

  • nutritive herbs
  • small amount of seaweeds (dulse, kelp, wakame and others – I think adding kelp/dulse in small quantities is important, not optional)
  • raw ground or soaked/sprouted seeds (my favorites are pumpkin and sesame; you might like to use flax – if your dog is not allergic to flax),
  • raw, organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (optional)

I think it is important to make good use of seasonal foods such as:

during the warm seasons:

  • raw goat milk
  • yogurt/kefir (from raw milk sources)
  • truly pastured eggs

during the cooler seasons:

  • properly prepared bone broth for added gelatin/minerals

FUR/FEATHERS: If your animal enjoys eating fur & feathers (whole prey), this is especially beneficial for insoluble fiber/prebiotic function and connective tissue.

LIVE INSECTS: Some cats (and even some dogs) enjoy added live feeder insects, for treats — such as crickets, mealworms, butterworms, the occasional moth, etc.

VEGGIES & FRUIT: In addition, or alternatively, you can add small amounts of pulped green veggies, over-ripe fruits – cats sometimes enjoy melon and dogs can truly love their green “smoothies” — these provide added fiber and is a great source of antioxidants, plus some minerals. Fermented vegetables is an excellent choice when prepared with limited quantities of mineral-rich, unrefined real salt.

When you feed a nice variety of whole foods, we don’t see the need for additional supplements, for healthy animals.

For example, instead of an EFA/fish oil supplement, we recommend feeding whole sardines, anchovies, and/or a good source of salmon (please read about how to feed this safely here) as part of the regular diet.

Alternatively, we make a nice “EFA supplement” that is a grind of various fish fillets, including salmon, called Seafood Medley that works nicely for adding in fish to the diet for the omega/EFA benefits.

We also make two EFA/beneficial fat supplements that are not fish based, White Gold & Red Gold — they are traditionally rendered truly grass-finished/pastured beef/pork fat: rich in CLA and omegas. Red Gold is this product boosted with the addition of fresh organic turmeric, organic black pepper and organic/unrefined Red Palm Oil for the added anti-inflammatory benefits and additional carotenes, Coenzyme Q10, and all of the forms of vitamin E. You can also make your own easily if you have a good source of truly pastured pork or beef fat.

Of course, individual needs will vary and you may need to use supplements to treat specific imbalances in an individual animal — some animals require more of some things or metabolize foods differently.

I don’t think probiotics or digestive enzymes are necessary, unless you have an animal with a condition that would benefit from the addition of these supplements.

If you have a hard time sourcing all these goodies, you can look to some nice whole food based supplements — for example, the “Whole Body” products made by Standard Process are nice.

These are my own standards and guidelines that I feel confident suggesting after feeding raw, advocating for raw and researching animal (& human) nutrition for over 25 years. I hope this helps! – Kasie Maxwell, Founder/Owner San Francisco Raw Feeders (SFRAW)

Q: Yes, SUPER helpful!!! Thank you so much for that information!! I did see your recommendation of red palm oil somewhere else and I think I’ll be adding that to balance the Omega 3 oils. I’m currently feeding the pork mix with 30% fat, is this rich in omegas? Also what is CLA? One last question, for dogs who are sensitive to chicken meat, do they have the same sensitivities to chicken eggs? – Sergi Rodriguez

[Note: Sergi may be referring to our blog post about the use of Red Palm Oil here or about the importance of supplementing with vitamin E or vitamin E rich foods when feeding fish as a regular part of the diet here.]
A: Hi Sergi, Great questions!

First, we use/sell & recommend Nutiva brand organic Red Palm Oil — there are other good ones, too, but this brand is not harmful to the environment/wildlife or people/those working to provide this product.

Unfortunately, there are a number of Red Palm Oils that are produced in a manner that atrociously harms the local wildlife population (terrible harm to orangutans!) and ecosystem (though deforestation), as well as being involved with unfair labor practices. Nutiva’s Red Palm Oil is an excellent choice from a local company (to us) that has none of these risks or concerns involved, and the product is very high quality.

Yes, if you are feeding a pork mix from a truly pastured pork source (Marin Sun Farms products labeled as “green” for ruminants or “yellow” for non-ruminants, for example), then the fat will be rich in “good” fats/omegas: up to two to four times more of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals, up to five times more CLA, plus vitamin A, carotene, and vitamin E (meat from the pastured cattle is four times higher in vitamin E than conventionally raised cattle, for example).

As you may be aware, natural food source of Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant that is anti-aging, protective of cardiac diseases (in humans), and cancer (in all animals).

Pastured/grass-finished beef and pork fat/lard is also the second highest food source of natural vitamin D, just after cod liver oil. One tablespoon of lard contains approximately 1,000 IU’s of vitamin D – which is impressive – but this is not true with all lard/fat, only unrefined/minimally processed (traditional low-temperature rendering, for example) fat from truly pastured or grass-finished animals.

About CLA: meat (specifically beef) and dairy products from grass-fed ruminants are the richest known source of a specific type of fat called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture up until harvest/slaughter, their meat/fat contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed conventional diets. CLA is known for being protective against cancer – an obvious and very important benefit of feeding grass-finished/truly pastured meats & poultry! CLA is considered a beneficial fat because it has shown to have anti-carcinogenic, anti-atherogenic, anti-diabetagenic, immunomodulatory, apoptotic and osteosynthetic effects on the body. CLA has been linked to a reduction in asthma and food-induced allergic reactions – which is beneficial for dogs & cats that experience symptoms from food intolerances and allergies.

Interestingly, dogs/cats that are allergic to chicken are not necessarily allergic to chicken eggs. You would need to do a trial or diagnostic testing to determine if this is true or not for your individual dog. Also, some tolerate chicken great but are sensitive/intolerant to all eggs – you just never know how an individual is going to respond to a specific food (or food from specific sources). Fortunately, you can also try pastured duck eggs or even quail eggs, if you have a source for these. These are worth giving a trial with to see how your dog does. You can fed them raw, or slightly cook the egg whites, which I like to do since I am feeding multiple species and this works best for all involved. If you feed a lot of eggs, the yolks are nutritionally at their best fed raw, while the whites should be heated a bit because it deactivates/denatures a natural protein (avidin) found in the egg whites that binds tightly to the B-vitamin biotin and prevents its absorption. Biotin is important for a number of vital body systems (including healthy mental functioning/mood, skin and hair), so just be sure you are not overdoing it on the raw egg whites. Hope this helps!
Q: Wow! That’s a lot of great information. I honestly had no idea pastured/grass finished beef and pork contained all the nutrients you mentioned. Since pastured Beef and pork contain higher levels of vitamin E, do you recommend just a small amount of red palm oil? – Sergi Rodriguez
A: Yes, pastured/grass-finished meats, poultry, eggs & raw dairy should all be more nutrient dense when compared to commercially raised/handled products. This is just one of the many reasons why we are so committed to sourcing from these producers!

Yes, adding moderate amounts of the Red Palm Oil is still a good idea. Vitamin E is more abundant in these foods, but Red Palm Oil has a different/unique profile of nutrients, including additional forms of vitamin E. And, because you are relying on foods, rather than isolated or synthetically or naturally derived supplements, it is safe to use reasonable and moderate amounts in the diet for the added benefits these foods provide without the issue of hypervitaminosis.

Thank you sooooo much!!! – Sergi

You’re very welcome! – Kasie